The Illusion of No Cost—ouch

Nonprofit organizations are always on the hunt for new donors.  That’s as it should be.  The difficulty comes when the charitable organization makes donor acquisition the overriding focus of their fundraising program.

Those of us who have been in the fundraising profession for a while know that the most expensive donor—that is costly to the organization—is the new donor.  Many times the initial cost of acquiring a new donor is as much as or more than the initial gift received from that donor.

The rise of social media and the use of “friend” as a verb have led many nonprofits to believe that the cost of acquiring a new donor is becoming much less—even zero.  So the organization—thinking the cost is zero—puts most or all of their efforts into acquiring these new “cost-free” donors.  Therein lies the rub.

Yes, the internet has transformed the way we can communicate with our donors—even our friends.  It has dramatically reduced the cost of make that initial contact.  The rules of human nature still apply, however.  Relationships grow over time and through consistent, genuine interaction.  Getting large numbers of new donors to text you with a single gift or “like” your page will do just that—and nothing more.

The donors that provide renewable, expanding support are those you develop over time, whatever method you use.

Larry C. Johnson